The mountains, canyons and deserts that stretch from the Southwestern U.S. to Northern Mexico form one of the richest bioregions in the Americas. This bi-national area is home to more than forty distinct indigenous communities, and contains some of the planet’s most important agrobiodiversity.
From river people to desert dwellers to mountain pastoralists, the dynamic cultures and diverse landscapes of the Greater Southwest have long been shaped by precious water: the snowfall and seasonal rains; the rivers, springs and the sea. Water carves the land and nourishes the crops, and it is at the center of the cultures and their challenges throughout the region.
Our grantmaking strategy in the Greater Southwest supports innovative Indigenous and local communities of farmers and pastoralists, ranchers and fishers and their allies to strengthen and celebrate local food systems connected to biodiverse land and seascapes. Our grants help to foster learning networks around biocultural diversity across landscapes and enable frontline local community associations to catalyze change and safeguard indigenous rights to food, health, and homelands. We welcome creative artistic ways to highlight the voices of Indigenous and local communities and reframe debates around land and seascapes, foodways and cultural identity.
Primary Themes for Grantmaking
The birthplace of much of North America’s agrobiodiversity is located in Northern Mexico and Southwest US bioregion. In the Sierra Tarahumara, for example, the Tepehuan and Tarahumara peoples still cultivate sixteen of the twenty five varieties of maize known to exist in Mexico. Though current ‘free trade’ regimes and water and agricultural policies are stacked against Indigenous and local food systems, evolving networks of native farmers, fishers, hunters and gatherers are mobilizing around both regional and global movements of food sovereignty and economic self-determination. These are the areas where we focus our support.
1. Resilient Food Systems
This thematic program is focussed on increasing the availability, abundance and diversity of nutritious, culturally appropriate foods, seeds and medicines; enabling their exchange in locally-determined production systems; and strengthening connectivity with biodiverse land and seascapes. Our goals within this theme are to establish food secure/food sovereign communities that are better able to adapt to climate change; to create reservoirs of Indigenous knowledge amidst connected biocultural corridors; and to create strong networks of Indigenous associations linked to regional and international allies, to provide a buffer against homogenizing political and economic forces.
Priority Landscapes of Focus
1. Colorado Plateau and its Borderlands
This region is home to 24 Native Tribes with distinct languages and dialects that occupy Southern Utah, Northern Arizona, and Eastern New Mexico. These peoples still legally control more than a third of the land area in this landscape, an area that is extremely rich with biodiversity. The Colorado River and the Rio Grande have shaped these biocultural landscapes over millennia, fostering cultural exchange networks along and between these watersheds.
2. The Sierra Tarahumara
This mountain landscape, also known as the Sierra Madre Occidental, is home to the Rarámuri, Mountain Pima, Tepehuan and Mayo peoples, and hosts the largest complex system of canyons in the world, comprised of the Copper, Sinforosa, and Urique canyonlands. This “Mountain Mother of the West” is a rich refugia of North America’s agrobiodiversity. More than 90,000 Tepehuan (Odami) and Tarahumara (Rarámuri) still farm over ten thousand hectares of traditional crops in this area, including a diversity of ancient and important varieties of maize.
3. The Sonoran Desert
This desert landscape is the traditional territory of twelve Native communities, desert dwellers, riverine and coastal peoples, and covers about 200,500 hectares primarily in Southern Arizona and Sonora (Mexico). With the greatest diversity of vegetative growth of any desert worldwide, this bi-national desert is a transition zone between temperate, tropical, and subtropical conditions. The watershed of the Sonoran Desert contains critical riparian areas that support diverse plants and animals, and includes the upper Gulf of California, the lower Colorado River and its delta, and the cross-border Santa Cruz and San Pedro rivers.